When it comes to getting customers to their destinations, there are no shortage of options available all over the world. Travel was one of the first verticals the internet disrupted, and today there are not only countless platforms aggregating hotel rooms, cruises and flights; there are also an almost equally countless number of platforms that aggregate other travel platforms to make sure the customer can get the best value for their holiday booking.
Which is all well and good — but what to do when travelers get there? Things aren’t quite as easy, particularly if one is traveling to a location that doesn’t come prewired with a destination. Travelers to Orlando, for example, probably don’t need much in the way of help filling their days, as they’re likely there for the amusement parks.
But outside that very prescribed vacation experience, for the consumer on the loose in a new environment, the options are somewhat slim. There are guidebooks and travel websites with which to research and build an itinerary. There are also tourism packages for perusal — although a frequent complaint among travelers is that those tours are designed to be “one size fits all” in design and are sometimes too touristy. A customer who wants to see something more esoteric or exotic usually has to do their research, with no guarantee that they’ll be able to book anything.
Taiwanese travel startup KKday is hoping to solve that issue by building the platform travelers in Southeast Asia need to connect to local activities.
While the firm is small today, as of February 2018 it snapped up $10.8 million in a Series B funding round to expand its operations. That round was led by Japanese travel operator H.I.S. — a pairing that might seem a bit odd, as H.I.S is a 38-year-old travel operator that employs close to 17,000 people with offices in over 150 cities in 80 countries worldwide. They reported about $5.5 billion in annual sales last year.
However, at the time of the investment, KKday CEO and Founder Ming Chen said the pairing was strategic for both firms.
“H.I.S. is not just a financial investor, but is valued as a strategic investor. By utilizing H.I.S.’ global resources and integrating it with KKday’s strong marketing and Big Data programs, we will be able to change the in-destination travel operations model.”
Building a More Unique Experience
Though KKday is a travel service designed to cater to the exploding tourism industry in Southeast Asia — allowing consumers to find and book activities like a river cruise, museum visit, city sightseeing tour, hot air balloon ride and the like — according to its founder, the business is really a success story about the power of good supply chain management.
Chen said the goal in developing the platform was to offer an easy to plug into management system that allows all types of suppliers, big or small, to easily communicate with customers and manage orders without any IT investment.
As of today, KKday offers more than 10,000 types of tours on its app and website, all of which are “highly curated,” according to KKday’s Chief Marketing Officer Yuki Huang.
“Conventional travel agencies aim to fulfill every traveler’s desires. With KKday, you can choose which experience you want to take on,” Huang noted in a conversation with Business Insider.
Discovery through KKday is all digital. Customers can scroll through their options and choose to book either in-app or on the ground. The platform makes its money by taking a cut off the purchase of the activity. And attracting them now, according to KKday CFO Weichun Liu, is particularly critical, because although KKday has some big backing, it’s still quite small and vulnerable to other players stepping on their niche.
“If a Priceline or Expedia jumps into the market, they have more resources,” she explained. “We will try to get an early start on the finer and more difficult parts to reach first [so that] even when the bigger guys enter the market, we are ahead of the game,” she noted in an interview.
But while that is a big goal, she said it’s not an overwhelming one, because KKday believes it can build a service that is so desirable — particularly for its millennial and Instagram-enthused clients — that the existence of bigger players in the market will not matter so much.
“Amazon means a certain level of quality and guarantee; that’s our aspiration,” Liu said.
Moreover, because the brand is focused on younger travelers, it knows how to better market the events it offers. Huang noted that cultural immersion tours — which usually do not track well with a younger crowd — book at a much higher rate via the KKday platform because they’re pitched toward photo-enthused travelers.
“We want to provide a wide range of products which include locations that travelers don’t usually pick,” said Huang. “We leverage on social media trends to attract travelers to choose the unconventional packages and influence others to do the same.”